Sports business is a funny thing. Follow it too long and you wind up feeling like Alice through the looking glass. Up is down. Black is white. Careful what you ingest.
Case in point, my take on MLB’s new CBA, and specifically the changes to the Draft. For those that haven’t been following, there’s now constraints around the “slots” that are bonuses. The league now sets the amounts, and if you add up the amounts you’re allocated for your picks and that’s what you’re supposed to work with. You can go over, but you’re hit with a tax, and depending on how far over your aggregate signing allotment, you can also lose picks.
As I wrote last week, it’s “ugly”. But, how I saw “ugly” was far different that how others have.
For me, the system is bad in that it appears to weight on the side of high-revenue clubs, and therefore, it has the very real capacity to mess with competitive balance.
That was my concern: competitive balance.
Others see it another way. To them, it’s removing bonus money from those drafted – a class of individuals without union representation that are being burned.
I said if you follow the business of sports long enough, you start to see things differently, and this is one of those cases.
There are a vast array of things wrong with what occurs in professional and amateur sports. There are “drafts”, which if you think about it is a controlling function that places an individual at the mercy of their club; the NFL’s constitution declares that it is a not-for-profit organization, and Major League Baseball has an antitrust exemption that declares that a $7 billion industry that has clubs from sea-to-shining-sea, plus one in Canada, is not interstate commerce.
Welcome to Wonderland.
So, you’ll have to forgive me if my sense of practicality has gotten in the way of truth and justice. The latest CBA – as is every labor agreement reached – is based off compromise. There are political aspects at play at every turn. Big market and small markets. Management and union. Veteran union members and untested non-union draft selections. Pick your poison.
So, if I shrug because the draft system targeted the untested talent being drafted, it’s only because it’s happened in the NBA, NFL recently, and it’s possible that the NHL could see the same.
They say it’s just business, but what they really mean is it’s business and politics.
This is a sad reality, but it is reality. I don’t like it. You shouldn’t like it. But then, it comes back to that thing: you can see what the environment is and accept it as reality, no matter how messed up it is. It is what it is.
The dynamic is so prevalent that to not understand it means you spend your life tilting at windmills, or turn away in disgust.
It’s brutal, unfair, and ruthless. It’s 30 to 32 owners collecting together to push an agenda and then the next minute each one would like no more than to stab a brother in the back to win a championship. It’s players who inject substances in order to artificially enhance performance. It’s calling it attendance when it’s really just tickets sold. It’s counting VIPs and comps as attendance. It’s… it’s… it’s sports as a business.
So, yes, the draft system is bad for the new talent through the door. They were the scapegoat to get a deal done. If the league wants you to believe that it’s about making matters more competitive, fine, but it’s more about “cost certainty” ergo: making a profit.
Don’t blame me for being able to stomach it all. It is what it is. I’m just rolling with it and delivering the message. If you don’t accept it, turn off the tube, get off Twitter, and get away from it… far away from it. You’ll likely be better for it. Now excuse me, as my daily sports intake requires a bulimic episode.
Maury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey, and is a contributor to Forbes SportsMoney blog.. He is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network (select his name in the dropdown provided).
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